The National Council for Behavioral Health reported that 70 percent of Americans had experienced trauma to varying degrees. With the rise of COVID-19 and all its after-effects like the global recession, isolation, and feelings of uncertainty, we can be sure that the number of people experiencing trauma continues to increase as the world descends into collective grief over the people and things we have lost due to the pandemic.
Now more than ever, educators of all stripes need to have a certain level of knowledge in trauma-informed care if we’re going to teach, train, or educate. Being a trauma-informed educator is simply acknowledging the role that trauma plays in the lives of our students and how it impacts their performance, relationships, and day-to-day lives, and working with them in ways that do not harm them and that can help them find wholeness once again. Here are the benefits and advantages of trauma-informed education and care.
Being trauma-informed teaches us to scratch beneath the surface
Every educator has experienced having a difficult student at one point or another. We all know the one—the one who can’t stop being rude, won’t stop bullying their classmate, and will keep pushing their teachers’ buttons until they snap. Many of us have also experienced teaching students who could not improve or focus on their schooling no matter how hard they tried.
Being trauma-informed teaches us to scratch beneath the surface of the behaviors that our students are exhibiting, and we realize that many of their less than commendable practices are coming from a place of deep pain. As we continue to learn about how trauma shapes people’s mental health and personalities, we learned to believe the best in our students and their potential instead of giving upon them.
Being trauma-informed provides us with the best way to deal with our students
Gaining a basic knowledge of trauma and its effects saves you from scrambling for solutions when conflicts arise or when a student is acting up. You will gain not just knowledge but also tools to deal with problems head-on and in helpful ways. Here are some examples:
- Trauma-informed care teaches us to build positive and safe relationships, where our students are done no further harm and where they can thrive in an encouraging learning community.
- Being trauma-informed allows us to de-escalate conflicts and negative situations. When you understand that a student is verbally abused at home, you will have a basic knowledge of what triggers them, and thus you know what to say and what not to say.
Being trauma-informed makes us an asset to our community
There is a misconception that experiencing the effects of trauma can only happen to people who have seen violent wars or have been victims of horrifying crimes or abuse. But even if what our students experienced were not quite to those levels, it’s still possible for them to be exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
Gaining an insight into how past trauma influences our present can help you be an asset to your community because you will be a teacher that your students can trust and rely on. You will be able to build a reputation as a safe person who lends a listening ear and leaves no room for judgment.
Being trauma-informed gives us insight into our own mental health
Being trauma-informed also provides us with mental health literacy, which can give us a keen insight into how our own traumatic experiences affected us. Remember that before you can truly be of help to others, you also need to be able to deal with your past traumatic experiences and triggers—lest you do more damage to the people you have been called to care for.
Here are some additional safety tips and precautions:
- If you want to learn more, consider going to a trauma-informed counseling school, or consult with experts who have licenses and certifications. As you learn more about this subject, you’ll realize that people are complex, and there’s a reason why therapists and counselors need training. Don’t armchair diagnose your students, especially if you’re not a specialist. Just be their trauma-informed teacher. Boundaries are key.
- Partner with these experts and encourage your school or institution to learn trauma-informed education and care as well. Attend seminars, watch some psychology training videos, and receive instruction from trained professionals. It will prepare your school for when the students come back full-time after the pandemic.
Trauma-informed education is an exercise in empathy. Give it a try and watch you and your students benefit from it in more ways than one.